Research in the Department of Physics
"Research in the Department of Physics 2017" / Research Labs / Faculty List ]

Subjects of research in physics extend to infinity, ranging from the micro world to the distant expanses of outer space. What's more, they are constantly expanding. The Department of Physics, as well, is engaged in a broad range of physics research.

  • Roughly seen, there are four main areas of research:
  • Astrophysical research
  • Elemental particle research
  • Materials research
  • Biological research

This kind of division, however, is given here merely for descriptive purposes. In reality, cooperation and debate take place without regard of group boundaries.

Astrophysical research
How did the universe surrounding us start and how did it evolve to its present state? What is its shape? These are questions that will probably well up in many people when gazing at the starlit sky. The experiments and theoretical research offered by the Department of Physics are designed to respond to these questions.
The development of means of observation is of critical importance in astrophysical research. The primary means of observation at present is light (electromagnetic waves). By capturing the light coming from the far reaches of the universe, we can understand the history of the universe and find answers to events far removed in space and time. Depending on the wavelength of the light (electromagnetic waves) observed, the universe shows a different face. Research groups at the Department engaged in observing light of different wavelengths (radio wave observation, infrared observation, near infrared light – optical wavelength observation, X-ray observation) collaborate in advancing their research.
Developed under the leadership of the late Professor Yukio Hayakawa, a leading figure in astrophysical research in Japan, astrophysical research at the Department of Physics remains at the forefront of research worldwide.
Elemental particle research
Matter consists of molecules and atoms. Atoms in turn are composed of protons, neutrons and electrons. Protons and neutrons further break down into quarks. What then are quarks made up of? Research to investigate the basics of the constituent elements of matter and the physical laws they follow is what elemental particle research is about. Because many experiments in this field require a facility that generates high levels of energy called an accelerator, this field of research is also referred to as high-energy physics.
The Department of Physics has experimental research groups which play a leading role in conducting a variety of advanced experiments in fields such as direct observation of elemental particles called tau neutrino and closing in on the asymmetrical nature of our world = material world and immaterial world (CP violation). The theoretical groups also boast a distinguished record of accomplishments such as the Sakata model, a forerunner of the quark model, and prediction of neutrino oscillation. Especially in CP violation and compound model research, the contributions of Nagoya University cannot be overlooked.
In the meantime, we stride forward, letting the wings of imagination take us to a still more microscopic world of still higher energies.
Materials research
Our body is surrounded by various materials. Some conduct electricity and others do not. Some materials are attracted by magnets, others have no electric resistance at all at low temperatures. With all matter having the same constituent elements (molecules and atoms), how come they display so much diversity? What basic laws are at work here? Is there some simple uniform concept behind this diversity? The field in physics which explores these areas is called condensed-matter physics.
The Department of Physics of Nagoya University has a long history of research in condensed-matter physics, in particular, superconductivity and very low temperature physics. In fact, it was Nagoya University which did pioneer work in developing theories to unravel the basics of superconductivity. And we are still challenging, both experimentally and theoretically, the mysteries of a wide array of materials typified by superconductivity. Not all research is intended for practical application, but materials research for basic science is also unfolding.
Biological research
We believe in the power of physics. We believe that we can gain a deeper understanding of many things by investigating them in the light of physics. If that is the case, it is only natural to resort to physics in our quest for the answer to the question “What is life?”. The building blocks of living organisms are also molecules and atoms. Certain molecule/atom assemblies have life functions, but what mechanism is it that supports these functions? We are convinced that we can find the answers to these questions in physics. And this is the ultimate objective of biophysics. We may not be able to fathom the answers within the present framework of physics. It may very well require a framework that is wider by one order of magnitude. It is with this feeling of excitement that we continue our research into the mysteries of life.
Among the first to realize the importance of biophysics, Nagoya University’s Department of Physics set up biophysics research groups, which have been leading Japanese research in this field. As the importance of life science is being acknowledged, the mode of thinking and methods used in physics are expected to gain increasing importance in life science.

As described above, research in the Department of Physic covers a wide spectrum of subjects. At first glance, people may even think that it would be impossible for research groups extending over so many fields to form a coherent unit. But behind the mode of thinking and method of pursuing a wide variety of research targets, there is a common mode of thinking—the physics mode of thinking.
This “physics mode of thinking” is by no means complete and perfect. Whenever faced with new research subjects, we may have to come up with a totally new approach. That is the time for a big jump forward, and that is why this field is worth challenging for young people.
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